Report: COVID-19 will likely spread for up to two more years

A team of pandemic experts has predicted that the new coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for another 18-24 months in the U.S. They urged officials to stop telling people that the pandemic is on the wane, and instead to prepare for a long period of intense effort to quell upcoming waves of disease.

The prediction was issued in a report from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP). Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, was a co-author.

The authors wrote that the virus will keep spreading until the population develops “herd immunity”—when enough of the population has become immune so that the disease stops spreading. They estimate that 60% to 70% of the population may have to be infected to achieve herd immunity. Even in a best-case scenario, people will continue to die in the meantime, they said.

The report outlined three possible scenarios for how COVID-19 will spread in the coming months. They recommended that the U.S. prepare for the worst-case scenario, in which the initial wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 is followed by a larger wave in the fall or winter and one or more smaller waves in 2021. The authors said that this scenario would require the periodic reinstitution of mitigation measures to drive down infections and prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed.

In a May 1, 2020 CNN article, Lipsitch expressed surprise that many states are lifting restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. “I think … it’s an experiment that likely will cost lives, especially in places that do it without careful controls to try to figure out when to try to slow things down again,” he said.

Read the CNN article: Expert report predicts up to two more years of pandemic misery